Western Civilization 2 Final Research Proposal

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¶ … Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment were significant turning points in history and led to religious and political upheaval.

A a) the Enlightenment emerged from the Scientific Revolution. Describe how Enlightenment thinkers viewed human society and behavior and how their approach freed intellectuals to approach politics, policy, the economy and religion from wholly new perspectives.

The Age of Enlightenment is a period in Western history that first emerged in Germany, France and the Great Britain, to then expand to the other corners of Europe. It represented a crucial moment in the history of mankind due to the ideology it implemented and the consequences of this ideology. The primary concept at the basis of the Enlightenment thought was liberty - liberty of speaking, liberty of acting and also equality of rights. They tried to adapt these ideas to the human society, in an attempt to gain more power for the masses. They generally disagreed with monarchy and autocratic political rulers and desired for the population to have the power. The central idea of the figures of the Enlightenment Age was for the individual to establish himself independently from social, political or religious doctrines. Otherwise put, the ideology on the existence and life of the individual would be based on reason, rather than established dogmas (Hackett, 1992).

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The representatives of the Enlightenment trend encouraged the members of society to question everything they heard, to search for additional information and to make their own decisions. A liberalization of though was suggested and this inspired thinkers and intellectuals to go outside the classic boundaries and further research their fields of interest. This new approach materialized in a major intensification of scientific researches, but also new approaches to politics, economics, society and religion. Foremost, this is a time that generated numerous advancements in arts as well.

Research Proposal on Western Civilization 2 Final Assignment

A b) Fully explain your understanding of John Locke's concept of "Natural Law" and why it was and continues to be the catalyst of revolutions worldwide.

The Natural Law is a wide concept discussed by numerous philosophers, such as Aristotle, Thomas Hobbes or John Locke. The law basically states that there is a higher power materialized in the force of nature, a law that is set by the nature, and which has applicability and validity regardless of time or location. Each philosopher has looked at the natural law from a different perspective and has brought new contributions to the theory.

Of particular interest in Locke's approach to the natural law is the effect of the law on goods. In this order of ideas, he believed that accumulation of perishable goods is a sin against nature as the humans' ability to consume these goods is limited. Therefore, the replacement of perishable goods with durable goods would no longer constitute a violation of the natural law. His theory also points out to the liberty and equality of humans, but also the need to distinguish between public and private goods. He argues that a solid society can only be built if the protection of private assets is assured. Foremost, he goes on by stating that the natural law can be enforced and protected by individuals who respect their rights and responsibilities and punish those who break them.

What is interesting about Locke's understanding of the natural law is that the analysis is conducted from a new perspective. While Galileo or Newton look at it through the lens of physics, motion or regularity, Locke analyzes it from the standpoint of human behavior and moral laws (Locke and Ashcraft, 1991).

2. The American and French Revolutions were major turning points in World History and were outcomes of the "enlightened" views concerning the appropriate role of government and its relationship to the governed.

A a) the principals and teachings of Enlightenment thinkers (e.g. John Locke) and the dire fiscal needs of the kings of England and France combined to cause the American and French revolutions. Fully explain your understanding of these causes. In so doing compare and contrast the actual complaints of the residents of the 13 Colonies with those of the people of France. Discuss whether the American or French peoples had better arguments supporting their overthrow of a monarchy. Fully detail your arguments and support them with direct references to John Locke's theory of Natural Law.

The emergence of the French and American revolutions can easily be explained: the populations were under the influence of the Enlightenment thinkers, who argued liberty of rights and equality. At the same time, the monarchs were pressuring more taxes upon the population in order to cover state expenses. Dissatisfied with the political regulations and motivated by the Enlightenment declarations, the members of society joined forces and began the revolutions.

Both populations were dissatisfied with their rules, which was the main common argument in favour of a revolution. The main difference however resides in the nature of the monarchs. While in France, the monarch was the actual King of France, implementing his policies as he saw best for France, in the case of the American colonies, the rules was the king of the British Empire, who implemented regulations as he saw best for his empire. Therefore, the interest of neither American population nor colonies was prioritized, meaning then that the arguments of the American were stronger than those of the French in starting a revolution.

The arguments on both sides were retrieved from the Enlightenment declarations, including those of John Locke. From his works on natural laws, the populations argued that they are able respect their rights and comply with their responsibilities and that they should be granted the opportunity to do so. The taxes charged by the monarchs were also discussed in the meaning that they reduced the population's access to private goods and the accumulation of wealth.

A b) the French Revolution occurred in three (3) phases: (1) the establishment of a constitutional and limited monarchy, (2) the Reign of Terror, and (3) the Directory. Fully explain each of these phases, including significant events and their sequence.

The first phase of the French Revolution commenced with the attack on rebellion at Grenoble, when the French citizens refused to pay the taxes requested by the king and this resulted in violent confrontations. The following year, the French population attacked Bastille. Aside the refusal to pay the taxes and the rebellion against monarchy with the desire to limit its power, the first phase of the revolution also addressed the emancipation of the black individuals in France and the lifting of the restrictions that had been imposed upon the people belonging to the Judaic religion.

The second phase, dated approximately between 1792 and 1794, saw the execution by guillotine of the King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette. They were the single monarchs of France to be executed. "The Reign of Terror" also saw the execution of numerous aristocracy members. The killings ended with the death of Robespierre, the revolutionary leader, and an estimated number of 150 of his followers. This point in time became calmer; churches were reopened, but the still confused population needed leadership (Ellis-Christensen, 2008).

The third phase is called the Directory and has been set between the years 1795 and 1799. Throughout this period, a new constitution was developed and the first bicameral legislation was implemented. Violent confrontations still occurred but were stopped by the army. The successful army general soon became the new ruler of France - Napoleon Bonaparte.

Explain and contrast the reasons why the American Revolution ultimately succeeded while the French Revolution failed. How could the French done it differently?

The people in France were not united. While some desired the implementation of a new political regime, others militated for the restoration of monarchy. This did not happen within the American colonies, as they all shared a unified goal - freedom from under the British ruler. Consequently then, the division between the goals of the revolutionaries represented a main reason for the failure of the French revolution. Had they been more united in a common desire, the outcome of the conflicts could have been a different one.

The geographic location of the countries and the involvement of tertiary parties could also be considered as reason for the success in America and the failure in France. In this order of ideas, the neighbours of the American colonies did not become involved in the conflicts nor did they take sides. In France on the other hand, the neighbouring countries formed a coalition aimed to confide the revolution in France. This however failed. "The American Revolution brought into being an American Republic that still stands. The French Revolution became the incubator of ideas that began with virtuous proclamations and ended in a reign of terror" (Donelson, 2005)

Foremost, not only did the French revolution bring misery to the French population, it also represented the commencement of a European war that would last a quarter of century and also a model for violent confrontations in other regions of Europe, throughout the 20th century.

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